Changing the Game

“We’ve seen that a game can change. We’ve seen that the very game we’re playing can become something we never intended it to be. We made the change. It changed because of the way we were playing it … As long as we make sure that it is the right time and that everyone understands and agrees to the rules, we can do anything we want to and still be playing well. OK, we might not be playing the game. But there is no ‘the game’ for a play community. Any game whatever, as long as we are playing it well, is the game … There’s a tendency, as we begin to make things official, to think that only one particular form of a game is the real game. The fact is, any game we’re playing is a real game. That’s the fact. After all, the only thing that makes a game real is that there are people playing it.”1

The Passion for Rules

“The game’s sole principle, though it is never posed as universal, is that by choosing the rule one is delivered from the law. Without a psychological or metaphysical foundation, the rule has no grounding in belief. One neither believes nor disbelieves a rule—one observes it. The diffuse sphere of belief, the need for credibility that encompasses the real, is dissolved in the game. Hence their immorality: to proceed without believing in it, to sanction a direct fascination with conventional signs and groundless rules … The Law describes a potentially universal system of meaning and value. It aims at objective recognition. On the basis of its underlying transcendence, the Law constitutes itself into an instance for the totalization of the real, with all the revolutions and transgressions clearing the way to the law’s universalization. By contrast, the Rule is immanent to a limited and restricted system, which it describes without transcending, and within which it is immutable. The rule does not aspire to universality and, strictly speaking, it lacks all exteriority since it does not institute an internal scission. It is the Law’s transcendence that establishes the irreversibility of meaning and value. And it is the rule’s immanence, its arbitrary, circumscriptive character, that leads, in its own sphere, to the reversibility of meaning and the reversion of the Law … The rule has no need of a formal structure or superstructure—whether moral or psychological—to function. Precisely because rules are arbitrary and ungrounded, because they have no referents, they do not require a consensus, nor any collective will or truth. They exist, that’s all. And they exist only when shared.”2

Playtime in Utopia

“Let us return to this game, and instead of considering it as a systemic strategy totalizing all possibilities, uno inuitu mentis, think of it as a game that is played in this space. Each ‘turn’ of the game whose rules describe the system allows the conflict between the players to be reinvented and superior to it. With every turn, or throw, the whole system is brought into being; each turn nonetheless surpasses the system and its strategies … Each throw is situated between the structural balance of the positions and the unbalancing effect of the throw itself, of the event or act whereby a double strategy is contained and invented, despite the fact that a diagram of possible choices eliminating the force of contradiction of the rational struggle of contradictory elements cannot be sketched out. This throw or move opens up the whole field of possibilities, but the field itself cannot be controlled because it is nothing but indetermination.”3

The Abyss of Philosophical Decision

“From this we gather the paradoxical ‘logic’ of immediate or non-thetic (of) itself decision. It is clear that this diversity, radical that-ness or in itself of NTT, a diversity that is absolutely indifferent, grounds, unlike the One, an absolute or indifferent choice and thus an absolute limitation of philosophical choice or a positive annulment of philosophical decision. There is no possible decision as regards this diversity; it is too indifferent to offer any reason for choosing, too absurd and contingent in its existence even to offer a reason for its existence. But also too positively stripped of reason not to liberate decision and to ground choice in its radical absurdity: it is the very diversity of decisions. NTT is even an absolute principle of choice, the principle of choice … It is the essence of choice, of absolutely any choice possible whatsoever without any limitation. It is a matter of neither a strategy, nor a logic, nor an economy of choice, but of a transcendental possibilization that frees choice as possible.”4

The Birth of the Rule

“The fourth and fifth centuries of the Christian era witnessed the birth of a peculiar literature that, at least at first glance, does not seem to have had precedents in the classical world: monastic rules … The present study intends to show how, in these texts that are at once dissimilar and monotonous, the reading of which seems so difficult to the modern reader, a transformation is carried out. This transformation—to an extent probably more decisive than in the juridical, ethical, ecclesiastical, or historical texts of the same era—collides with law as much as with ethics and politics. It also implies a radical reformulation of the very conceptuality that up until that moment articulated the relationship between human action and norm, ‘life’ and ‘rule,’ … the rule enters in this way into a zone of undecidability with respect to life. A norm that does not refer to single acts and events, but to the entire existence of an individual, to his forma vivendi, is no longer easily recognizable as a law, just as a life that is founded in its totality in the form of a rule is no longer truly life … Just as precepts that are no longer separable from the monk’s life cease to be ‘legal,’ so the monks themselves are no longer ‘regular,’ but ‘vital.’”5


  1. Bernie DeKoven, The Well-Played Game: A Player’s Philosophy, 1978 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013), 39, 45, 57. 

  2. Jean Baudrillard, Seduction, 1979, trans. Brian Singer (Montréal, QC: CTheory Books, 2001), 133, 134, 136. 

  3. Louis Marin, Utopics: Spatial Play, trans. Robert A. Vollrath (New York, NY: Humanity Books, 1984), xxii, xxv. 

  4. François Laruelle, Philosophies of Difference: A Critical Introduction to Non-Philosophy (1986), trans. Rocco Gangle (London, UK: Continuum, 2010), 206. 

  5. Giorgio Agamben, The Highest Poverty: Monastic Rules and Form-of-Life, 2011, trans. Adam Kotsko (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013), 3, 4, 26.